Friday, February 24, 2012

Geometry in Animation

Some time ago, I was referencing pictures of dung beetles for a Character Design class. In my Animation class, I was just learning the four-legged walk cycle, which was giving me some trouble. One of my instructors walked by and spotted the photo, which depicted a beetle walking backwards with two feet propped up on a ball of dung. He said "Six-legged walk cycle, eh? That's gonna be a hell of a foot slip!"

This comment broke my brain. I was having enough trouble tracking four feet on a flat surface. The prospect of dealing with six legs was a bit much for me, and I had no idea how I would begin to track two of those feet on the surface of a circular object!

I hadn't thought of that for months, and then I encountered this animated GIF (or one very similar to it):

Why of course! Everything became instantly clear to me. If the circumference of a circle is equal to the width of 3.14 of them standing side by side, then the unrolled circumference becomes the length of your footslip.  And then you only need to divide the circle into the same number of pieces as your foot slip in order to make them track correctly.

Since I'm sure the above is clear as mud, I've included my own version of the diagram, geared to animators.  The tick marks on the ground are color-coded to match the tick marks on the circle:

This may be painfully obvious to some of you.  But it was quite the epiphany for me, so I thought I'd share.  Happy animating!

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bill is Pymp!

Although the local ASIFA chapter informed me that Don Hertzfeldt would be visiting Colorado in December, I didn't read the e-mail until long after the event.  While I did find some solice in the Alt Animation Podcast's Don Hertzfeldt interview (Part One and Part Two), I was still pretty upset.   It was salt in the wound from missing Bill Plympton nine months prior.  So, you can imagine, when I heard that Plympton was making another visit to Colorado, I was pretty psyched.  And for good reason.

During Bill's presentation on Saturday, he showed a few of his films and talked about how they were made.  Among them was the completed version of Guard Dog Global Jam, in which each scene was redone by a separate animator, in their own personal style.  The "modernized" version of Winsor McCay's Flying House was also shown, fully restored, colorized, scored, and with dubbed voices replacing the inter-titles.  He showed other films and told other stories, often accompanied by a drawing demonstration.  Everything was enthralling, but two in particular stood out:
  • Plympton's Dogma (on making money from an independent film):
    1. Make it short (no more than 10 minutes)
    2. Make it cheap (which explains why he animates on 3s or 4s most of the time)
    3. Make it funny ('cause these are the ones that tend to sell)
  •  Sneak preview of Cheatin':
    • We were treated to a part of Bill's current work in progress, Cheatin'.  He admitted that it doesn't follow any of the criteria above, but that's not stopping him.   Even as a raw pencil test, it was beautiful!  He said, with any luck, it will be completed by the end of the year.  Can't wait!
After the presentation, Bill was kind enough to give everyone a drawing. He said he's gotten some pretty weird requests in the past, so he was only going to do the dog. That was fine by me.

I also picked up a copy of his Idiots and Angels, which I hadn't had the opportunity to see.  This is another film that doesn't follow his own dogma.  At feature length, it's not short, which also means it was not cheap to produce.  And, although it had it's comic moments, it's definitely darker than most of his work.

Later, I noticed something strange in my copy of Timing for Animation, Second Edition. On page 77, there's a still from Idiots and Angels, but its caption attributes it to Kaze no Tani no Naushika (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind). Hopefully that will be corrected in later printings.

So, anyway, if you get a chance to see Bill present, don't pass up the opportunity!

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.